A Tribute to the of
Greetings yet again, faithful readers, to the source of all things wonderful in the Silver Age of DC comics.
I had another one of my periods of great deliberation for this edition of the Sage. Sometimes things flow beautifully and other times I seem to suffer from indecisiveness. After far too much consideration, I've decided to veer off into the weeds just a bit this time around and take a look at a character that was in sort of a sub genre of the Silver Age. With no costume and no super powers, but following a pretty intriguing storyline that has fascinated mankind for generations, I give you the debut of Rip Hunter, Time Master from Showcase #20, the May/June 1959 issue--on sale 03/17/59. [Reprinted in World's Finest Comics #225, dated September/October of 1974.] Credit for this issue goes to... Editor: Jack Schiff. Writer: Jack Miller. Cover artist: Bob Brown. Interior pencils & inks, apparently for the first and last time, Ruben Moreira. Rip was to appear again in the next issue of Showcase, but was then drawn by long time JLA artist Mike Sekowsky. A few issues later, in #25 and #26 to be precise and he was given to Joe Kubert. When Rip received his own short-lived title that ran for 29 issues between 1961 and 1965 many of DC's top artists worked on the book. They include: Ross Andru & Mike Esposito; Nick Cardy; Alex Toth; Dick Dillin; Bill Ely and Gil Kane. Jack Miller continued to chronicle Rip's adventures through issue #23, George Kashdan wrote the remaining six.
Now, without further ado, let's see how Rip and his friends deal with their status as "Prisoners of 100 Million B.C.!"
The splash page gives the reader an exciting preview as Rip and a colleague, decked out in explorer's garb are desperately firing rifles into a group of attacking Pteranodons, the winged reptiles of the Mesozoic Age.
The story itself begins where any self-respecting science fiction story should, in the secret mountain laboratory where Time Sphere II has just passed all checks prior to her maiden voyage. Rip and his assistant Jeff board the craft and with the assistance of the lovely Bonnie at the home station control panel and the awestruck lad named Corky observing, they begin their journey into the past. It isn't long until the two adventurers reach their destination, but there is trouble back at the lab when two gunmen appear to Bonnie and Corky and reveal that they'd stumbled across the hidden lab and bugged it while laying plans to make their fortune. We have to wait to hear those plans, though, as we rejoin Rip and Jeff. They've just experienced a minor earthquake and that swarm of Pteranodons is beginning to attack. Realizing two rifles aren't going to be sufficient, the resourceful Rip produces a flare gun and uses the blinding flash of the flare to scare off the ancient beasts. Moments later they hear a cry for help and discover none other than Bonnie along with Corky and two strange men with pistols. It turns out the criminals forced Bonnie to guide them here in the other time sphere. Unfortunately, the quake caused some damage to the sphere to the point that it's not functional for another trip through time. The crooks' goal, meanwhile, is to search for gold, silver and diamonds in the prehistoric world and then to return with them to the present day using their remaining functional time sphere. Suddenly, the air is ripped asunder with the cries of dinosaurs in combat. The humans run for cover and in the confusion the gunmen have slipped away. Rip and his party decide to work their way back to the cave where the time sphere is hidden, only to find it being guarded by a huge Brontosaurus. Having been stripped of their weapons, the band ponders how to get past this challenge when Rip decides to climb the mountain behind the creature and cause an avalanche to drive it from the cave entrance. Before he can act, however, the beast spots the rest of the party. Rip decides to act and using his shirt as a makeshift blindfold, he jumps onto the Brontosaurus, confusing it and driving it away. When they check the cave, to their dismay, the time sphere is gone.
Part II , entitled "The Modern-Day Cavemen!" finds the group investigating the cave, trying to discover what happened to their craft. Finding footprints, they decide that the two crooks are behind the disappearance and follow the trail until it ends abruptly. In the next moment, a familiar voice advises Rip and company that he'll return the sphere right after finding the minerals they seek. Hunter counters that the crooks don't know how to operate the sphere, so it's a standoff. Fate then intervenes and the ledge the two malefactors are standing on breaks, sending them plummeting into the river below. When they don't surface, it's decided that the time travelers will need to begin a methodical search for the hidden sphere if they're ever to see the 20th century again. They decide upon a cave high in a cliff wall as their sanctuary and begin to convert it into a livable habitat over the following days. Then, during a hunting expedition, Rip and Jeff hear the danger horn and hurry back to the cave where Bonnie and Corky are being endangered by the baddest of the bad, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. For a few moments the men stand helplessly by, wondering what they can possibly do to help, armed only with their hand-fashioned bow and arrows. Hunter then remembers that they still have some cartridges and using a knife he removes the gunpowder from them to form a makeshift bomb in a handkerchief. Lighting a strip of cloth for a fuse and flinging the package at the thunder lizard, the desired effect is achieved. The T. Rex leaves the area and the group is reunited.
Several days later as the weary group continues their search, things get interesting again when a nearby volcano erupts. Fortuitously, a boulder flung from the volcano knocks over a tree that was hiding the missing time sphere. Despite the continuing danger from flying debris, a quick decision is made to try and reach the sphere and then home. Part II ends on that dramatic note.
Part III places our hearty band in yet another predicament as a lava flow has cut off their pathway to the time sphere. Fortunately, both Jeff and Rip happen to have a handy coil of rope with them and they manage to snag the trees by the sphere. Jeff then carries Corky while Rip brings Bonnie across on the ropes. Reaching their objective, they prepare to enter the sphere when cries for help are heard. It seems the criminals survived their fall after all and are begging for passage home. Making a quick decision, Rip instructs Bonnie to take the time sphere back to the 20th century since it will only hold 4 passengers. He keeps the supply kit which contains a spare time tube. He and Jeff will then make the necessary repairs to Time Sphere #1 and bring the henchmen and their ill-gotten gains (one has a bag of rough diamonds) home with them. As the sphere fades away, the uneasy foursome work their way through the jungle foliage. After about a half hour of travel they hear a rumbling noise. It turns out to be a prehistoric stampede as dozens of dinosaurs, spooked by the volcano are in a mad dash away from the eruption. Picking up the pace, the men race for the time sphere. One of the crooks loses his precious bag of diamonds and they realize as they come upon the sphere that they'll need more time to get underway. Quickly, Rip instructs them to soak some rags in oil and make flaming arrows. Firing furiously, they form a sort of fire break to impede the charge of the huge beasts. Luckily the diversion works and they're able to get aloft. Despite a final obstacle in the form of the Pteranodons attempting to attack the craft, they make good their escape from 100,000,000 B.C. The criminals are turned over to the police and the time travelers take a well-deserved rest from an amazing adventure.
The premise for Rip Hunter is anything but new. Probably the best known predecessor is H.G. Wells' classic story "The Time Machine." We've always been fascinated with the notion of time travel and how we could potentially have a front seat view of the past or even the future. Many other great science fiction stories have been written around the idea as well, to include exploration of paradoxes, such as the potential result of interfering in a historical event, much like one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, "The City on the Edge of Forever" or some of those great old Outer Limits and Twilight Zone episodes. Time travel in some of the other DC magazines was a pretty routine thing as well. After all, a couple of the members in good standing in the 30th Century Legion of Super Heroes, Superboy and Supergirl, both dwelt in the 20th century. Similarly, the members of the Legion used to routinely use their time bubbles (ever notice how the time craft seemed to be a bubble or sphere?) to travel through time. Then there were villains who used time to bedevil our heroes like the Time Trapper [Adventure Comics #321], Chronos the time thief [The Atom #3] and a two-hit wonder called the Time Commander who gave Batman and Green Lantern some grief in Brave and the Bold #59 (which I'll review here in the future) and #69.
I found the story to be some good, straight up adventure that was an obvious predecessor, at least as far as the pace and storyline, the "feel" if you will, to the modern adventure films featuring Indiana Jones and of course the Jurassic Park series. While these folks weren't superheroes either, a good adventure is a good adventure and even though this is my first exposure to a Rip Hunter story, I enjoyed myself and I give Rip and company an 8 on the rating scale.
You are invited, as always, to come back in about two weeks for the next installment of the Silver Age Sage. Keep those e-mails coming to my handy address: firstname.lastname@example.org. It's always good to hear from you.
Long live the Silver Age!
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